Workplace Violence in Canada

Research done by the International Labour Organization and other bodies suggests that workplace violence is a major issue in Canada. It is difficult to get exact figures because of under-reporting and different ways of collecting data, but a large percentage of workers have reported being affected by violence in the workplace.

Defining Workplace Violence

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, violence in the workplace is much more than simply physical assault. It includes any act of abuse, threat, intimidation and assault in a work setting. This may include:

  • Shaking fists, destroying property, throwing objects or other threatening acts
  • Written or verbal threats to do harm
  • Harassment - including intimidation, bullying, threatening gestures or behaviour intended to humiliate, demean, embarrass, threaten or annoy a co-worker
  • Verbal abuse, including swearing or insults
  • Hitting, kicking, shoving, pushing and other physical attacks

Acts of vandalism, sabotage, theft, as well as rape, murder and arson can also be included as acts of violence at a workplace. Some of these incidents can take place away from the workplace such as at an exhibition or business conference, but they still count as workplace violence.

Who Is At Risk?

While anyone can experience violence in the workplace, some professions are more at risk than others. If you are a retail employee, teacher, correctional officer or work in public works, health care, social services or municipal housing, then you might be more likely to be affected by violence at work.

In addition, those who work in one of the following situations are also more likely to experience violence in the workplace:

  • Working with the public
  • Handling money or prescription medicines
  • Enforcement or inspection
  • Service, care and education jobs, including those in community based settings

Dealing with Violence in the Workplace

If you have experience violence in the workplace, you should:

  • Report it immediately to the person in charge of human resources
  • Keep a written record of the incident, including the names of any witnesses.

Your workplace may have a policy in place to deal with violence. Even if it doesn't, your incident may be covered by policies in relation to harassment or discrimination. Employers are obliged to take these incidents seriously and to take appropriate steps to prevent them.